The developer of Aid to Citizen, a mobile app that collects federal benefits for low-income people in East Dallas, received more than $1 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funding last year. The app was used to track dollars and vouchers for food and housing and help people access services, including money for utilities. But in the summer of 2016, the company’s CEO learned that the software company he was working for got $39 million from the government for another project.
One hour of normal work, as the founders of Aid to Citizen understand it, costs about $11,000 for aid. Credit card-monitoring software running in the background costs about $9,000, and something called the administrative-analysis center, which audits how the money is being spent, costs $6,000.
It was then that company employees started to think about what they might do differently next time the government reached out for help. The resulting app Aid to Citizen, which the founders said costs about one-fourth of what some of the assistance apps do, allows people to see how their government assistance dollars are being spent. But it also enables them to track them.
The application takes a database from a community and, as its name suggests, lets people check to see what aid they are getting and where it is going. The application is free to download.
There are a few things Aid to Citizen doesn’t yet do, including letting people track aid by address, or detecting abuse, like money going to an unlicensed car mechanic.
Ms. Wade said the startup team received a meeting at HUD last year with the administrator, Mr. Rhee, and discussed how its system could help those who were unfairly denied assistance. The app is being used at other sites, including a homeless shelter in Washington, D.C., where benefits are inspected.
She said the approach was cheap compared with other assistance applications. “We already made it to their table,” she said. “It’s going to win them a lot of business because it’s inexpensive. And that gives us the opportunity to build out the whole value chain and make it simpler.”
On Wall Street, Aventura-based OnCue has received $40 million from Greylock Partners, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm, and its credit card-monitoring software will be used by the Social Security Administration to track payments and evaluate spending. The system typically works with large lenders, like Bank of America and Citibank, and Atul Patel, the company’s CEO, estimates his products save up to 15 percent.
“Helping people get ahead is our passion,” Mr. Patel said. “We’re building a world that works for everyone.”